7 ways to make a social media crisis worse

It’s tempting to provide an answer even if you don’t have one—or better yet, pretend the crisis isn’t happening—but doing so only makes the situation worse.

Social media crises can happen to the best of brands, but even they don’t always respond in the best manner.

Brands will fan the flames until not just one building is burning, but the entire street. They then have to try to extinguish a fire that has gotten utterly out of control.

Here are seven ways brands can make a social media crisis worse, as well as tips to keep the fire small:

1. Give an answer even if you don’t have one.

Our human nature makes us want to fix things. We want to give an answer when someone asks a question.

Brands need to ignore this tendency when they don’t have a definitive answer or know how they’re going to resolve a situation. They’re better off saying “I don’t know” than providing misleading or inaccurate information.

2. Give complex answers or apologies.

Keep your answers short, sweet and to the point. Dabbling in complexity almost always lends itself to explanations or justifications. Also, don’t be overly apologetic. It reads as browbeating at best and insincere at worst.

3. Edit or delete a mistake.

Unless your mistake is so heinous that editing or deleting it is necessary, editing or deleting your mistake will only fuel the ire of some audience members.

However, not editing or deleting it will enrage others.

You really can’t win this fight, but it’s better to let the mistake stand than look like you’re trying to cover something up. Besides, if you made a mistake, it likely has already been screen-captured, retweeted, memorialized and shared in some other way.

4. Put your head in the sand.

You are not an ostrich. If a social media crisis arises, you have to meet the situation head-on.

Not immediately dealing with an issue is a recipe for outraged tweets, blog posts and memes. Do your best to keep those things in check. You won’t be able to stop all of them, but addressing the crisis as it happens will alleviate some of them.

5. Lie.

This point is related to others on this list, but it’s worth reiterating. Lies have a way of coming out. Be forthcoming about the mistake, what you’re doing to resolve the situation and how you’ll prevent similar mistakes in the future.

6. Blame the intern.

Blaming the intern makes you look like a dolt, and it makes your audience wonder if you know what you’re doing.

A related point: Don’t have the intern manage your social media. Social media is a long-term business, and your intern—no matter how wonderful he or she is—only has a short-term stake in your business.

7. Get contentious.

Don’t argue with your audience. Fires turn wild when brands do this. Seek to extinguish the flames.

Do you want to survive a social media crisis without losing your brand to the flames? Keep these seven points in mind, and you’ll survive. You will emerge a little worse for wear, but if you remember what it’s like to be burned, you’ll do your best to avoid crises in the future.

This article originally appeared on the Vocus blog.

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